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A SURVEY by the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) with the Victorian Automobile Dealers Association (VADA) of completed log book/scheduled services this year has shown a massive 81 per cent drop in vehicles presented for service from period June 30 to August 31 at Melbourne new car dealerships located in Stage 4 Areas.

This equates to 245,037 fewer vehicles presented to Melbourne new car dealerships from June 30 to August 31.

The number was released by the chamber as part of the information package put to the Andrews government in a bid to convince bureaucrats that vehicle service was not a factor in the spread of Covid-19 and that to close down vehicle service in the way it had was creating significant increased risk to road trauma for unsafe vehicles and a backlog of unserviced vehicles that may never catch up.

On top of this data, Melbourne dealers have subsequently been shocked to learn that the Andrews government is going to allow Melbourne people to drop their dogs in for dog grooming and collect them again but is not going to allow people to drop their cars in for service and collect them again.

The fury in the Melbourne dealer world is not that they have anything against pet grooming businesses, but that the government is simply not listening to a common sense approach to vehicle service which can be done in a Covid-safe manner.

The survey results put to the government is data collected from new-car dealerships and does not include the hundreds of thousands of cars that should have been presented at independent repairer workshops during the same period but were prevented from doing so by the lockdown measures.

Nor does the data include franchisee logbook work on motorcycles, trucks, farm machinery and similar devices.

Daniel Andrews

The VACC says the figure could easily be more than 500,000 motor vehicles by November 30 this year.

It added that this had left a huge black hole of service operations to be caught up on when vehicles can once again be presented for service in Melbourne and the fear is that many of these cars will completely miss out on vital maintenance forever.

The chamber said predictive analysis has arrived at a figure that is going to be too large for the industry and the community to deal with in the upcoming months. This will mean that if current trends continue the amount of unsafe cars on Victorian roads during the holiday season will be a community risk. 

According to the survey, on average each Victorian new-car dealer in Stage 4 performed 481 logbook services in June 2020 compared with Victorian new car dealers in Stage 4 in August 2020 which performed on average only 98 logbook services.

The chamber said that because the Andrews government was unable to accept that the vehicle maintenance industry had developed Covid-safe social distancing and sanitisation methods, it had created a service load that delayed important safety maintenance and potentially would place lives of people on the road at risk.

The chamber said: “There are still over 50,000 Takata airbags to be replaced by VADA members before December 31, 2020. Pressure from OEMs to give preference to get this recall work completed before the ACCC deadline will be massive and will result in a further delay in the backlog of outstanding service work.

“This could be exacerbated by the fact that 30 per cent of VADA members will not qualify for Jobkeeper from October, have not qualified for any State Government assistance and potentially be forced to close their doors in October.

“Potentially, 200 dealers will be faced with this proposition and this will mean there are fewer service bays and fewer technicians to catch up.”

The chamber said many consumers and dealers will potentially be placed in invidious positions as a lack of vehicle servicing over an extended period of time may put a warranty, extended warranty or service warranty at risk.

“There are many reasons where the Australian Consumer Law may or will support dealers and consumers in this regard, however the unnecessary heartache, expense and time consumed debating each individual issue will be unpalatable for all parties and will be brand damaging.

“None of these issues have been created by dealers, manufacturers or consumers. There is a legal and logistical minefield ahead with regards to this.”

The VACC said it is now working on a comprehensive strategy and a portfolio of industry advice for members to present to their local members.

Meanwhile the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the peak body for the automotive industry, has ‘implored’ the Andrews government to open up Melbourne metropolitan vehicle and motorcycle dealerships from September 28 or Step 2 in the Covid-19 Roadmap for Reopening.

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said the extended Roadmap confirms the Government’s strategy of focusing on the health crisis prior to the economic crisis that Victorian business is facing.

Tony Weber

“While this is understandable, and the FCAI believes that the health of our community must take precedence, there is no doubt that industry and business is facing challenging times – some industries more than others,” Mr Weber said.

Mr Weber said that while the FCAI supports a health-driven recovery to the pandemic, the industry believes there should be room to move for businesses that have displayed the ability to operate in CovidSafe conditions.

“Across Australia, automotive brands and their dealerships have initiated comprehensive and thorough CovidSafe conditions in their facilities to ensure the ongoing protection and safety of staff and customers.

“Vehicle and motorcycle dealerships, by their very nature, have a large footprint and are sparsely populated.  Maintaining personal distance within the showrooms is no problem.

“The service areas of dealerships often have an even larger footprint, with the ability to allocate a single bay to each technician. Personal distancing in the service area is also no problem.

“And brands have perfected the art of contactless consultation, advice, sales, and vehicle delivery.

“Most importantly, brands have comprehensive CovidSafe plans and contact tracing for the various areas of their operations, addressing different scenarios that may arise,” Mr Weber said.

“We believe the industry has the capability to safely return to work at an earlier time.

“Ideally, we would like to see the automotive retail network be included in the 100,000 workers allowed to return to work on the 28th September (Step 2 of the Government plan).

“We implore the Premier, Daniel Andrews, and his government to consider the automotive industry in their Stage 2 release plans,” Mr Weber said.

By John Mellor

Manheim
DealerCell
Schmick